[This article was originally published on 10th May 2015]
[UPDATE 24/02/2020] We’re bringing this article back to you in light of the recent events that have been happening (and are currently ongoing) in the country: the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan govt. Just in case some of y’all are still clueless as to what is happening, Harapan lost the majority in the govt, Mahathir is no longer the Prime Minister and… we have a number of people on Twitterjaya commenting how this plot is somewhat reminding them of… the Game of Thrones. In fact, Game of Thrones was trending on the night of 23rd February 2020.
But that’s not all. The Finance Minister, Lim Guan Eng was also saying how all these political dramas are unnecessary and has even likened it to Game of Thrones. You can watch the video here:
But this is not the first time the Malaysian political scene looks like a scene from Game of Thrones… [END OF UPDATE]
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASONS 1-4 OF GAME OF THRONES
Imagine a land, rich in natural resources, packed with a diverse group of people of various races, creeds and religions. While most of the common folk go about their day-to-day lives, their leaders play complicated political games, making and breaking alliances amongst themselves in their bid to reach the top.
Are we talking about Westeros, the fictional land in George R.R. Martin’s amazing Game of Thrones books (which were adapted into an AMAZING TV show)? Or are we talking about our beloved country, Malaysia?
They say life imitates art, and we’re inclined to agree in this case. After some examination, we discovered that the events in Martin’s epic saga shared quite a few similarities with current affairs in Malaysian politics.
(Note: for best effect, read this article with the theme song playing in the background)
After all, like Game of Thrones, Malaysia periodically features crazy and complicated schemes by Houses (or political parties!) to reach the top of the table.
It sometimes has nudity that appears out of nowhere.
On Game of Thrones, we had a wedding with a lot of killing.
In Malaysia, we had a wedding which allegedly cost a killing.
In Game of Thrones, we had cases of children allegedly being converted into ice zombies against their will.
In Malaysia, we had cases of children allegedly being converted into other religions against their will.
In both cases, we had a character whose political dreams of reaching the top were affected by rumours of an alternative lifestyle.
As we had quite a bit of time on our hands, we decided to go deeper, and compare recent events in Malaysian politics to plot twists on Game of Thrones. We couldn’t make many exact comparisons: our politics is short of people getting beheaded or entering the bodies of animals. But it doesn’t mean it’s any less dramatic!
Do note however, that we are making not direct analogues with any politician to any Game of Thrones character: we are not saying that Politician X is Character Y or anything like that. Despite extensive research, we could not find any dwarfs or incestuous one-handed knights in the Malaysian Parliament. (Though we did discover quite a few eunuchs. OH SNAP!)
1. The Taman Medan sedition disagreement
GoT Equivalent: Tyrion’s trial for Joffrey’s murder
Usually, the only people afraid of crosses are vampires. However, a cross on the side of a church in Taman Medan was too much to take for a group of Taman Medan residents, who protested for it to be taken down. Arguments ensued, and the matter was referred to the authorities, who would put a definite end to the matter.
Uh..not quite. Unfortunately the case was met with differing opinions. According to IGP Khalid Abu Bakar, the matter was not seditious, while Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said it was.
In other news, the two were also heard arguing over whether this dress was white and gold, or black and blue.
For GOT Fans: Two officials disagreeing on whether a person is guilty or not? This brings to mind the trial of Tyrion Lannister at the end of Season 3. Sentenced to death after being found guilty of the murder of the king by his father, Tywin Lannister, the dwarf escapes by the good graces of his brother, Jaime, who does not believe Tyrion is guilty.
2. The Khalid-Abdullah brotherly connection
GOT equivalent: The Hound-Mountain brotherly connection
Speaking of Taman Medan, another interesting development that arose from it was we discovered the mob was headed by Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar. Who happened to be the brother of the IGP, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar!
For GOT fans: Remember when we discovered Ramsay, the castration-crazy, giggling lunatic torturer was the bastard son of the calm and stoic Roose Bolton? Well this was how we felt at this news. We’ve not been so shocked at a family connection since Darth Vader went “I am your father!” in The Empire Strikes Back.
But the two brothers also make us remember another set of brothers : Sandor ‘The Hound’ and Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane’. The Hound, after all, was an enforcer for a ruling dynasty, and was known for his unquestioning obedience to them. ‘The Mountain’, on the other hand, is most well-known for being made to fight a man from a foreign culture. (Oberyn is Dornish..)
3. The IGP finds Mahathir not seditious
GOT Equivalent: Tyrion’s first trial by combat
For a short time, getting arrested for sedition seemed to be en vogue in Malaysia. 111 people were arrested in the month of March alone, for crimes such as igniting racial tensions, making seditious remarks in Parliament, and even worrying about rape.
Around the same time, Mahathir was saying a lot of provocative things against the Prime Minister in public and his blog, even calling for him to step down. Imagine everyone’s surprise, when the IGP, who was going “Ini seditious!!!” more times than Hodor said “Hodor”, declared him not guilty of the offence!
For GOT fans: This really gave us flashbacks to Season 1, when Tyrion Lannister is tried for allegedly trying to kill Bran Stark. With so much evidence stacked against him, everyone expects him to be found guilty.
But the wily Tyrion evokes trial by combat. His champion somehow defeats the other guy’s champion, and he is found not guilty, shocking everyone. Which just goes to show that you can get yourself out of any serious problem if you really use your smarts. We wish we could settle all our real-life disputes by calling people to fight for us though..
4. Ibrahim Ali used to be liberal
Recently, we conducted an interview with Prof Sankaran Ramanathan, a UITM lecturer who used to teach Ibrahim Ali. And learnt that our favourite bible-burning advocating, bangsat-calling politician used to be a LIBERAL.
GOT EQUIVALENT: Daenerys’s transformation
We have to go with the biggest transformation in the show: Daenerys Targaryen, an innocent girl who goes through a literal baptism of fire to become an ass-kicking Queen, and the Mother of Dragons. Don’t be deceived: its always the tiniest cili padi that pack the hottest punch.
We note however, that Emilia Clarke looks a lot better posing naked with dragons than Ibrahim Ali.
5. Muhyiddin seems to throw support for Mahathir
GOT Equivalent: Theon backs the Greyjoys over the Starks
It’s the stuff of a gripping drama: A prominent leader has his second-in-command suddenly turn on him. Well something like this happened recently: Muhyiddin, Deputy Prime Minister, suddenly seems to support Mahathir, saying he is not alone in wanting to fight for truth. The same Mahathir, we all know, that is actively crusading for Prime Minister Najib to step down.
For GOT fans: Whoa, we’re having flashbacks to Season 2. Theon Greyjoy, the adopted ward of the Stark clan, decides to abandon them in an attempt to win the approval of his father. This leads to many tragic happenings, including Theon going from acting to a dick to..well, not having one anymore. Just goes to show how loyalty is important: you really shouldn’t abandon your friends for short-term gain, especially when said friends are known to be the most honorable people on your show!
6. Kit Siang tries to join forces with Mahathir, is rebuffed
GOT Equivalent: Daenerys almost trades her dragon
So recently, jaws dropped and knickers were twisted when DAP Chairman Lim Kit Siang said he was willing to work with his long-time arch nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad to ‘save Malaysia’. If you don’t follow politics, this is basically the equivalent of the King of Cats announcing an alliance with the Emperor of Dogs. Could two political rivals truly put their differences aside to come together for the ‘greater good’?
Sadly, however, this strange alliance would not come to pass, as Mahathir turned down the offer, basically saying: “You know nothing, Kit Siang.”
For GOT Fans: In the episode ‘And Now His Watch Has Ended’, Daenerys Targaryen is offered a deal by the slave trader Kraznys: if she gives him one of her beloved dragons, his army of eunuch warriors (it makes sense in the show) will join her.
Now this is a pretty bad deal. Imagine trading a bazooka for a dozen arrows. And so everyone is shocked when Daenerys seems to accept. The tables are turned, however, after she mutters one word that has made Game of Thrones fanboys cream their pants: “Dracarys”.
..resulting in her dragon basically turning the poor slave trader into ikan bakar. Which gives us two very important lessons we can learn: 1. be careful who you approach to make a deal with, and 2. always check the terms and conditions of your stuff before you buy them.
Replace the slave owner and Daenerys with Kit Siang and Mahathir respectively, tweak the situation a bit, and this episode really mirrors the almost-alliance. Plus hey, no matter how hot Drogon’s flame might have been, it would be nothing compared to the fire in a rebuke from Mahathir!
7. Mahathir suddenly supports Khairy
GOT Equivalent: Oberyn becomes Tyrion’s champion
Speaking of Mahathir, our former Prime Minister would really be a reality show producer’s dream. You can never guess what he is going to do next!
Last month, he again raised eyebrows when he announced that the hopes of UMNO lay in Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. Yes, the same Khairy Jamaluddin, son-in-law of the previous prime minister, who he deposed, and the same man who defeated his son Mukhriz as UMNO Youth Chief in 2009. If his streak of backing unexpected people continues, we fully expect him to be rooting for Trinidad and Tobago in the next World Cup.
UPDATE: One of our readers, Josh Lim, pointed out that Mahathir was never quoted as supporting Khairy openly. And apparently the article stating this has been deleted and then amended from the Straits Times, instead attributing the quote to Tun Kadir Jasin, a close associate of Mahathir.
No, it’s not a conspiracy… probably just a fixed misquote.
For GOT Fans: This is totally like the time Luke Skywalker received a message from Princess Leia through R2-D2, telling him..oh wait, sorry, wrong fantasy saga!
A hardy veteran suddenly hailing the cause of an underdog? Why, this reminds us of Season 4’s ‘Mockingbird’, when the Dornish prince Oberyn Martell unexpectedly proclaims himself Tyrion’s champion, making a badass speech that caused all the female show viewers (and some male) fall even more in love with him.
8. Khairy demands answers from Najib, and is satisfied when Najib sorta gives em.
GOT Equivalent: Viserys demands a golden crown, gets it
Speaking of Khairy, he recently surprised everyone in the whole Mahathir-VS-Najib saga, saying that Najib had to answer the questions brought up by the ex-PM.
Hit by pressure on all sides, Najib eventually went on TV, where he attempted to answer all the questions thrown at him.
For GOT Fans: Ooh, this was a tough one. Most of the characters on Game of Thrones aren’t really the kind who sit around and wait for answers. They’re more the answer-me-or-I-will-behead-you-and-burn-your-family type.
This event however, made us remember Season 1. Remember when Viserys Targaryen (the other blond guy in the show with a creepy thing for his sister) goes to Khal Drogo, demanding that he give him a golden crown?
And Khal Drogo, a tough bad-ass barbarian king who is the Khal of the Dothraki and Mayor of Don’t-Screw-With-Me-Ville, does. By melting some gold coins and pouring them on his head.
So in both cases, both parties demand something, and do get it, although not in the manner they expect. And no-one really argues about it! (For Viserys, its because he’s dead, but hey noone said the analogy was perfect!) Which really makes this a case of being careful what you wish for.
Wah why Malaysian politics so complicated one!?
So many twists! So many changes and shakeups in the Malaysian political scene, and that’s just in the last few months! How come all the politicians seem to be supporting one person on Monday, and then supporting another on Tuesday?
Game of Thrones is famous for its plot twists galore. No person stays at the top for too long: the political game is always shifting, with new players and new alliances coming forth every day. The show did go, after all, from a Mad King who set his city ablaze, to a jaded ruler more interested in eating and hunting, and finally to a cruel one everyone loved to hate.
And the same thing goes with Malaysian politics. The scene changes every day: The young, liberal politician of today may be the grizzled, conservative politician of tomorrow. Your staunchest political allies may end up your greatest enemies. And a leader may agree to repeal an act one moment and decide to retain it in another.
The common thread? What we see on screen might not be what’s really going on.
Whether it’s for the elections at Permatang Pauh (must be the episode that no one watched), the drama of the Anwar Trial, or the knives sharpening for Najib’s resignation, keep in mind that things aren’t always what they seem. There are forces at play that you might not know about, making deals that might not end up on your screen.
See, in both Game of Thrones and Malaysian politics, power derives from influence and support. While many politicians try to do what is right, ultimately many of them make decisions based on what they believe will get them the most support. Sometimes, that means going against previous promises, or having to support whoever is most influential at the time. Which is why they seem to flip-flop: most political stands have lifespans as short as popular Game of Thrones characters.
But Malaysia is not a fictional place
“The common people pray for rain, healthy children and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” – George R.R. Martin, writer of the novel, A Game of Thrones
Like Game of Thrones, the decisions of people at the top in Malaysia greatly influence the people at the bottom. Remember the old saying, ‘apabila gajah sama gajah berlawan, pelanduk mati ditengah-tengah’? (When elephants fight, the mousedeer are caught in the middle and die?) Sometimes, politicians get too caught up by their games to stay in power that they seem out of touch with the people: is it no wonder that disillusionment with local politics is supposedly causing many to migrate?
The poor rakyat jelata of Westeros too suffer from the decisions of their leaders. Remember the riots in Season 2 in protest at the food shortages and hardship from King Joffrey’s reign? Or when the slavers rebel when Daenerys conquers their city and imposes her rule on them? Season 5 sees Cersei Lannister meeting with a faith group, The Sparrows, to discuss the extent of religious obligations on the people of the Five Kingdoms: does this sound familiar to you?
Whether it is in King’s Landing or Kuala Lumpur, it is the common people who are affected by the political games that the lords play. And while the people of Game of Thrones are the figments of George R.R.Martin’s mind, Malaysians like you and me are all too real.
Another thing we can learn from Game of Thrones is that political schemes are complicated, and can backfire spectacularly if executed poorly. Even the most honorable plans can lead to disaster, and you can win every battle and still lose the war. Characters have to constantly be aware of what is going on: make one wrong move and it can spell disaster. Remember the Kajang Move?
In Malaysia, the characters are us, and we, the media are the ones who dictate what you see and what you don’t. After all, in the game of Malaysian politics, you either win or you get charged with sedition.
Did we miss out any Game of Thrones events that resembled Malaysian political twists, or vice versa? Which Malaysian politician is most like Tyrion Lannister? Or Ned Stark? Or Joffrey Baratheon? Tell us what you think!